Yellow School Buses Turn Green
Hybrid school buses may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an innovative public district, but that is starting to change, due to the new Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Bus Project of Advanced Energy, a nonprofit corporation that creates environmental, economic and societal benefits through market-based approaches to energy.
The School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla., purchased the first two of the program's 19 hybrid buses for $225,000 each on March 9 as a member of Advanced Energy's buyers' consortium of school districts, state energy agencies and student transportation providers, making it the first district in the country to operate hybrid school buses. (It was the first district in AE's buyers' consortium to submit a purchase request.)
AE first brought environmental groups, school bus manufacturers, K12 district maintenance personnel, and hybrid systems integrators together in 2001 for a series of meetings to discuss the possibility of a hybrid bus project for K12 schools, says spokesperson Sharon Gladwell. After technical and business feasibility studies determined it would be a worthwhile enterprise, requests for proposals were issued to school bus manufacturers, and in 2002 leading school bus manufacturer IC Corporation was contracted to assemble the buses, which were subsequently outfitted with Enova Systems' proprietary Post Transmission Hybrid System.
Through the buyers' consortium, funding for the project is coming from a variety of sources, says AE hybrid program manager Ewan Pritchard, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, state education departments and the districts themselves.
The hybrid school buses look the same as regular buses but are powered with a charge depleting or plug-in system, which utilizes an advanced battery chemistry that provides stored energy drawn over the driving cycle following an overnight charge, thus optimizing fuel economy.
With child safety in mind, both buses feature Ground Fault Interrupting circuitry, where "the slightest nick in a high voltage line will completely disable all high voltage," says Gladwell.
Depending on the route, fuel economy for the hybrid buses is expected to improve by 70 to 100 percent, with an average of 12.7 miles to the gallon. Average miles per gallon for a regular school bus is 7.4, Pritchard states. The hybrid system can also reduce emissions by up to 90 percent.
"This provides a powerful example to our students and community about the need to take positive action when it comes to addressing our nation's energy and environmental challenges," says Roger Dearing, superintendent of the Manatee School District.
A proprietary GPS system called AWARE installed in the buses will allow school officials and AE engineers to track their exact location and performance as one bus will operate in the east side and the other in the west side of the district.
"This project provides operational benefits to school districts, while also providing the reduced emissions desired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a valuable return on investment to school boards," says Pritchard.
The Nazareth Area School District (Pa.), Wake County Public School System (N.C.) and Little Rock School District (Ark.) are among the other districts in 11 states that have purchased the remaining 17 buses, which they will receive over the next couple of months.
More information about the program is available at the project's Web site, www.hybridschoolbus.org.
Adobe Program Empowers Youth Worldwide to Speak Out
The ongoing projects for Adobe's new global philanthropic program, Adobe Youth Voices, were presented at the second annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning conference in New York in March. Launched in June 2006 with founding nonprofit media partners Educational Video Center, Listen Up!, What Kids Can Do, Arts Engine, and iEarn, the initiative empowers underserved middleand high-school youth to explore and comment on their world and take a more active role in their communities using video, audio, digital photography, animation and Web design.
Adobe has committed $10 million in funding over five years, with a network that currently includes 37 sites in the United States, England and India. Program leaders are already seeing results, says Miguel Salinas, AYV program manager. "We're at the stage now to assess all the great stuff that's happening," he adds.
At the West Side Collaborative Middle School in New York, for example, students recently completed a video documentary on the discrimination that exists against overweight people.
Also in New York, 14 students in grades 9-12 at the Bronx Leadership Academy II, a small public high school, have been meeting since September to explore bias in standardized testing from an inner-city perspective. Under the guidance of English teacher Shannon O'Grady and history teacher Kristin Ferrales, the students have delved into the ways the tests may create a bias against students from a particular language culture or region of the country. They will write about their work in a book to be published by AYV partner What Kids Can Do.
In San Francisco, also working with What Kids Can Do, students at AYV site Build San Francisco Institute are examining the concept of globalization through a digital photograph and writing project. A compilation of photographs and photographic essays will be incorporated into an AYV book on globalization.
Adobe Systems Incorporated launched the program in 2006 after a year of research into the philanthropic impact different forms of media could have on youth in underserved communities. "We asked ourselves, 'How could we translate that into an impactful learning experience?'" Salinas says.
AYV is structured through a network of sites that engage educators and youth both in schools and in out-of-school environments in a yearlong professional development and support program. Educators enhance their teaching strategies and collaborate with like-minded educators and youth media experts to enable youth to express themselves using digital tools to create media with a personally meaningful purpose.
"The sites, schools and organizations we've selected have a long history of success in engaging youth with the world around them," says Michelle Mann, senior manager of corporate affairs and community relations at Adobe.
Adobe and its founding AYV partners have a variety of free and low-cost resources available on their Web site to help you integrate youth media into your classroom programs. www.adobe.com/go/youthvoices
In Chicago, New Year Marks New Options
Chicago's first math and science public high school will open this fall, thanks in large part to a set of donations totaling $4.2 million. The Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy, named in honor of its donors-Chicago-based Exelon Corporation CEO John Rowe and subsidiary utility company Commonwealth Edison CEO Frank Clark-will serve about 530 students in grades 9-12.
During an announcement ceremony in February at the campus site, Rowe lauded the efforts of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to place education at the top of the city's agenda for success and expressed his own family's belief that educational institutions and opportunities can propel individual success and help transform communities. The academy is the result of his commitment to provide others with the education necessary to compete in a global marketplace.
"Our mission is to launch a world class math and science academy in one of the city's most diverse communities," Rowe states, "to spark interest in the educational skills that drive local, national and international economies. This academy is where tomorrow's scientists will learn today."
Academy students will receive a more intensive math and science curriculum than is customary at traditional schools, featuring an additional two years of math programming, and at least two AP science courses are planned. The lab sciences offered are freshman physics, biology, chemistry and calculus-based physics. On a community-wide level, there will also be an after-school or summer math and science program for nearby students in grades 6-8.
All Chicago students entering ninth grade are eligible for admission this fall. There are no testing requirements, and a series of open house forums is being held to recruit interested students until all spaces are filled.
Construction to transform the Chicago Commons into the academy began late last month. For more information on the Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy, visit www.exeloncorp.com/community/mathandscienceacademy.
Taking a Closer Look at English Language Learners
A new brief released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, "Urgent but Overlooked: The Literacy Crisis Among Adolescent English Language Learners," reviews the current research on literacy instruction for adolescent ELL students and offers challenges for policymakers to consider. ELLs are among the country's lowest-performing students, scoring far below the national average on the reading section of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but they also comprise the fastest-growing segment of the middle and high school population. The brief is available at www.all4ed.org/publications.
Best Investor Curriculum Resources for Teachers
The Nonprofit Alliance for Investor Education (AIE) recently highlighted ten of the best available investor education classroom resources for teachers and students on its Web site. AIE is a 22-member organization of the United States' leading financial-related
foundations, nonprofit organizations, associations and governmental agencies. "The Alliance for Investor Education wants to make sure that American children are provided with a solid basis in financial and investment training so they can become informed and responsible investors in the future," says AIE President Michael D. Jones. The top resource is the Stock Market Game page on the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Web site. www.investoreducation.org/investoredclassroom
School Fundraising Auctions Go Online
The Sharon High School PTSO, in Sharon, Mass., raised more than $30,000 in March through cMarket Inc., the leading on-demand, online auction platform for organizations engaged in fundraising for nonprofit causes. It was more than triple the PTSO's average annual yield.
Jon Carson, CEO of www.BiddingforGood.com, the Web site that hosts the cMarket auctions, says that traditional fundraising tactics present three serious flaws: The products sold are usually unhealthy, sugar-coated snacks; the companies keep a significant cut of the revenue (cMarket takes 9 percent); and they require students to traverse door-todoor. Carson says that with the Internet, cMarket's online incremental bidding "opens the barriers" and allows school fundraising organizations to widen their net to a much broader community-ideally, anyone with an Internet connection.
Prior to the auction, Sharon High School PTSO board members met with Sharon Public Schools staff members and administrators to inquire what types of resources and tools the district needed, which led to essentially a "product wish list" that they would ultimately purchase with the raised funds. Dianne Needle, a member of the PTSO fundraising team, was already visiting the cMarket site frequently to shop for items of her own. She thought to hire the group to host the auction, and the president of the PTSO championed the idea.
The items auctioned off included vacation time-shares, concert tickets and jewelry-all donated by school and community members-but also items that cost nothing to the school, such as coveted parking spaces. At the auction's close, the district was left with much more money than it anticipated and was able to purchase martboards, laptop computers, Spanish dictionaries and products manufactured by ELMO.
Sharon's success with cMarket is modest compared to other schools. "There are districts in California that have made more than $100,000 with this service. $30,000 is definitely in the middle range," says Carson.
According to Needle, Sharon Alternative School is currently using cMarket for one of its own fundraising auctions.
Rising costs, larger class sizes, and decreasing budgets are hampering public and private schools nationwide, and Carson says it is very practical for school district officials to consider building a home page for their educational fundraising with cMarket. "The marketing tools and materials are all there, and the customer service team makes it very accessible," he says. www.cmarket.com